What is an HPE MSA?

The HPE MSA (Modular Smart Array) is a storage area network (SAN) solution from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) designed for small and medium sized businesses. The MSA provides affordable, high-performance shared storage with advanced data services and multi-protocol support.


The HPE MSA is an enterprise-class SAN that allows companies to consolidate and share storage resources. It is designed to be easy to use, install, manage, and upgrade. The MSA systems are built on a dual-controller architecture to provide redundant paths to data and ensure high availability. They support a variety of HDD and SSD drive types and can scale up to 384 drives with expansion enclosures.

Some key features and benefits of HPE MSA storage arrays include:

  • High performance – Delivers fast throughput and low latency for demanding workloads using flash storage.
  • Scalability – Scales up to 384 drives and over 2 petabytes of raw capacity.
  • Data services – Provides data reduction, thin provisioning, snapshots, replication, encryption, and automation.
  • Affordability – Lower entry cost than other HPE SANs makes it ideal for SMBs.
  • Ease of use – Simple management with the HPE MSA SMU and MSA CLI makes administration easy.
  • Flexibility – Supports Fibre Channel, iSCSI, SAS, and FC-NVMe host connectivity.
  • High availability – Redundant components and multipathing provide 99.9999% availability.

The MSA family includes the MSA 2050, MSA 2052, and MSA 1050 models. The MSA 2050 and 2052 are 12Gb/s SAS SSD/HDD arrays, while the MSA 1050 is a 6Gb/s SATA SSD/HDD array. They can be used for a wide range of workloads including virtualization, databases, video surveillance, and disk-based backup.


The HPE MSA architecture consists of dual active-active array controllers and up to 25 drive enclosures per array. The controllers connect to hosts over Fibre Channel or iSCSI and manage the back-end disk pools. They coordinate I/O operations and data services between servers and drives.

The MSA uses a fault-tolerant, high-speed PCIe gen3 switched SAS backend between controllers and disk enclosures. This dual domain architecture provides redundant paths to data for maximum availability. If a controller fails, the partner controller will continue servicing I/O without interruption.

The disk enclosures house up to 12 LFF or 24 SFF SSDs or HDDs each. For expansion, the 2050 and 2052 support Gen6 or Gen7 drive enclosures while the 1050 uses Generation 5. mixing HDDs and SSDs in the same enclosure is supported to optimize cost and performance.


The MSA controllers provide the brains of the storage system. They are powered by multicore processors and contain host ports, cache memory, battery backups, and connectivity to the drive enclosures. The key components of the MSA controllers include:

  • Processors – The controllers use Intel multicore processors to manage workloads.
  • Cache – The MSA comes with between 4GB to 16GB of mirrored cache per controller to improve performance.
  • Host ports – Host connectivity options include 16Gb or 32Gb FC, 10Gb iSCSI or 12Gb SAS.
  • Back-end SAS – 12Gb/s SAS ports connect each controller to the drive enclosures.
  • NVRAM – Provides write cache protection using onboard batteries and flash memory.

Disk Enclosures

The MSA disk enclosures provide the physical drive slots and backplanes for installing HDDs and SSDs. They connect to the controllers in a dual-domain configuration over the high-speed SAS backend.

Key features of the MSA disk enclosures include:

  • Dual SAS I/O modules for connectivity to both controllers.
  • Support for mixing HDDs and SSDs.
  • High-performance 12Gb/s SAS-3 drives.
  • Hot-swappable components (disks, fans, power supplies).
  • Slots for up to 24 small form factor (SFF) or 12 large form factor (LFF) drives.


The HPE MSA software components manage storage provisioning, data services, and monitoring and reporting capabilities. This includes:


The MSA SMU (Storage Management Utility) provides a graphical interface for managing and monitoring MSA arrays. It allows administrators to configure storage, create LUNs and volumes, establish replication, view performance metrics, and update firmware.


The MSA command line interface (CLI) provides a text-based option for managing MSAs. It can be accessed via SSH or through a console port. The CLI allows scripting commands to automate configuration and monitoring.

Storage Profiles

Storage profiles optimize system settings like RAID levels, drive types, and strip sizes for specific workloads. MSA profiles include general use, exchange, decision support, and more.

Virtual Storage Console

For monitoring larger environments, the Virtual Storage Console manages multiple MSA arrays through a single interface. It provides health status, capacity, performance reporting, alerts, and forecasting.

Data Services

The MSA arrays provide advanced data services to enhance availability, efficiency, and performance. These services include:


Space-efficient snapshots capture point-in-time copies of volumes or LUNs for backup and testing purposes. Up to 512 snapshots per system can be created.

Remote Snap Replication

For disaster recovery protection, remote snap replication makes volume-level copies to a secondary MSA system over IP networks. It provides asynchronous replication with customizable intervals.

Thin Provisioning

Thin provisioning allows overallocation of storage capacity. It dynamically provisions storage only when data is written to improve utilization efficiency.

Data Reduction

Data reduction includes deduplication and compression to optimize storage capacity. It identifies duplicate blocks and compresses data without impacting performance.


MSA supports self-encrypting drives as well as controller-based encryption for enhanced security. Encryption safeguards sensitive data at rest without impacting performance.

Automated Tiering

Automated storage tiering non-disruptively moves data between SSD and HDD tiers based on usage patterns. This auto-places “hot”, frequently accessed data on faster storage.


There are currently three available models in the MSA family:

MSA 2050 SAN

The MSA 2050 is the latest generation high-performance model designed for flash-accelerated workloads. Features include:

  • Dual active controllers with 16Gb FC or 10Gb iSCSi host ports
  • Up to 350K IOPS and 9GB/s throughput
  • Supports all-flash or hybrid flash configurations
  • 12Gb/s SAS backend to SSDs and HDDs
  • Scales up to 368 drives with expansion

MSA 2052 SAN

The MSA 2052 adds additional connectivity options and scale:

  • Dual active controllers with 32Gb FC host ports
  • Scales up to 576 drives with max capacity over 2PB
  • Supports SAN clients including Oracle, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V

MSA 1050 SAN

The MSA 1050 is an affordable, entry-level SAN focused on easy management. It offers:

  • Dual controllers active-active with 8GB FC, 1Gb iSCSI, or 12Gb SAS
  • Cost-optimized 6Gb/s SATA HDD array
  • Scales up to 96 drives and 768TB raw capacity
  • Best value for SMBs with limited budgets

Use Cases

The HPE MSA storage arrays are well suited for the following use cases:

Remote and Branch Offices

MSA provides centralized shared storage for multi-server ROBO environments. It enables automated replication to a central datacenter for disaster recovery.

Virtualized Infrastructure

The MSA allows multiple hypervisors to access shared storage resources. Flash acceleration provides high performance for virtual machine workloads.

Microsoft Applications

MSA storage is certified for Microsoft environments including Windows, Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, and Hyper-V.

Midsize Databases

The MSA family offers the performance, availability, and reliability required for business-critical database applications.

Disk-Based Backup

MSA provides a highly scalable platform for backup targets using dedupe-capable VTLs or backup software.


The HPE MSA storage arrays offer a number of benefits that make them an attractive SAN solution, including:

  • Performance – All-flash or hybrid flash configurations deliver low latency for faster application response times.
  • Scalability – Start small and scale up to over 2PB of raw capacity as needs grow by adding enclosures.
  • Affordability – MSA systems are priced competitively compared to other shared SAN solutions.
  • Reliability – Redundant components, automated failover, and fault tolerance provide five 9s availability.
  • Data Services – Advanced features like snapshots, replication, and encryption add functionality.
  • Flexibility – Supports Fibre Channel, iSCSI, and SAS connectivity to suit different environments.
  • Management – The MSA SMU and CLI simplify array configuration, monitoring, and maintenance.


The HPE MSA storage systems deliver enterprise-class features and performance for SMBs. They provide affordable flash-accelerated shared storage to consolidate workloads and enhance efficiency. MSA systems are easy to use, quick to deploy, and can scale up cost-effectively. Their high availability design keeps mission-critical applications running 24/7.

With industry-leading data services, multiprotocol flexibility, and proven HPE reliability, the MSA family provides a future-proof storage solution. For organizations that need high-performing shared storage with room to grow, the HPE MSA should be strongly considered.